Reported speech 2 – questions

Do you know how to report a question that somebody asked? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we can tell someone what another person asked.

direct speech: 'Do you work from home?' he said.
indirect speech: He asked me if I worked from home.

direct speech: 'Who did you see?' she asked.
indirect speech: She asked me who I'd seen.

direct speech: 'Could you write that down for me?' she asked.
indirect speech: She asked me to write it down.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 2: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

A reported question is when we tell someone what another person asked. To do this, we can use direct speech or indirect speech.

direct speech: 'Do you like working in sales?' he asked.
indirect speech: He asked me if I liked working in sales.

In indirect speech, we change the question structure (e.g. Do you like) to a statement structure (e.g. I like).

We also often make changes to the tenses and other words in the same way as for reported statements (e.g. have donehad done, todaythat day). You can learn about these changes on the Reported speech 1 – statements page.

Yes/no questions

In yes/no questions, we use if or whether to report the question. If is more common.

'Are you going to the Helsinki conference?'
  • He asked me if I was going to the Helsinki conference.
'Have you finished the project yet?'
  • She asked us whether we'd finished the project yet.

Questions with a question word

In what, where, why, who, when or how questions, we use the question word to report the question.

'What time does the train leave?'
  • He asked me what time the train left.
'Where did he go?'
  • She asked where he went.

Reporting verbs

The most common reporting verb for questions is ask, but we can also use verbs like enquire, want to know or wonder.

'Did you bring your passports?'
  • She wanted to know if they'd brought their passports.
'When could you get this done by?'
  • He wondered when we could get it done by.

Offers, requests and suggestions

If the question is making an offer, request or suggestion, we can use a specific verb pattern instead, for example offer + infinitive, ask + infinitive or suggest + ing.

'Would you like me to help you?'
  • He offered to help me.
'Can you hold this for me, please?'
  • She asked me to hold it.
'Why don't we check with Joel?'
  • She suggested checking with Joel.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 2: 2

Language level

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Submitted by Jenny2101 on Sat, 12/11/2022 - 04:45

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Hi, I want to ask about reported speech.
He said: "Do you want me to send this postcard for you?"
-> He asked if i wanted him to send that postcard for me.
I think this is what is normally changed from direct to indirect speech. But it's kinda weird for me. And i changed the sentence like this:
-> He asked whether to send that postcard for me.
Could you answer this for me? Thanks in advanced.

Hi Jenny2101,

Yes, I think the first one ("He asked if I wanted ...") is the typical way to transform the question into indirect speech.

The second one ("He asked whether ...") is also grammatically fine and means pretty much the same thing. But compared to the first one, it doesn't explicitly contain the idea of you wanting him to do that, which might or might not be important, depending on the situation.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by englishforeverindia on Sun, 30/10/2022 - 08:26

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Hi
"SHE COULD SWIM WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG ".

The conversion to reported speech -> She said that she could swim when she was young.This is right, isn't it?
AND NOT
She said that she could swim when she had been young.
Please answer.

Submitted by Blizzard93 on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 17:47

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Hello, i have a question.
'Where did he go?' changes and become 'He asked where he went'. So questions with question words have no backshift, isn't it?

Hi Blizzard93,

Backshifting is actually possible too - it depends on the context. It's also possible to report the question like this --> He asked where he had gone. (backshifted)

The version without the backshift is preferred when the thing being reported is still true or still relevant. Perhaps he left and then the speaker asked that question just a moment ago, for example.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:37

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Hello. Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct? If not, why?
- My sister could make a spectacular big cake in the shape of a tower! It is extremely surprising.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The first and second sentences are incongruent: 'could' in the first sentence seems to indicate a possibility (i.e. something that hasn't actually occurred) doesn't make sense with 'is' in the second, which speaks about something that's already true.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sam°Vi on Mon, 13/06/2022 - 18:14

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Why does "Where did he go?" become "She asked where he WENT"?
I'd thought in something like "She asked where he had gone"